Nine in 10 Australians support truth in political advertising laws


SOURCE: CANBERRATIMES.COM.AU
NOV 03, 2021

Nine in 10 Australians say Australia should pass truth in political advertising laws, according to a new poll released by the Australia Institute on the eve of a new bill being introduced to Parliament by independent MP Zali Steggall.

An overwhelming majority support such laws, regardless of political persuasions, with 87 per cent support among Coalition voters, 88 per cent of Labor, 82 per cent of Greens and 87 per cent of One Nation voters.\

Labor and the Greens have already said they would support such legislation in principle.

The poll results coincided with 39 prominent Australians signing an open letter calling on Parliament to pass truth in political advertising laws that are nationally consistent, constitutional and uphold freedom of speech.

Signatories include Nobel laureate Professor Peter Doherty, former political leaders including Dr Carmen Lawrence, Dr John Hewson and Cheryl Kernot, and retired judges David Harper and Anthony Whealy, as well as academics, barristers, community leaders and business people.

"Any genuine attempt to clean up our politics must begin with a commitment to truth-telling. Truth in campaign ads is an important beginning," said Dr Hewson, a former opposition leader and honorary professorial fellow at the ANU's Crawford School of Public Policy.

Former Democrats leader Cheryl Kernot said: "It remains absolutely unacceptable that an election's outcome can be decided by deliberately deceptive political advertising."

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In a new report, the Australia Institute's Bill Browne said passing such laws was possible, practical and popular.

"Recent election campaigns have seen heated accusations of misleading advertising from all sides, undermining the public's trust in politics," he said.

New laws could potentially help to mitigate the risk of foreign election interference in what is currently an open market for disinformation, he said, and proposed the creation of a publicly available ad library to improve transparency.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for politicians to be honest and transparent and the serious consequences of public distrust and disengagement.

"Last year, the ACT passed truth in political advertising laws unanimously, with Labor, Liberal and Greens politicians working together. It is time for the Parliament of Australia to follow their lead."